Searching for Space Debris Elements with the “Pi of the Sky” System

M. Sokołowski, M. Należyty, A. Majczyna, R. Wawrzaszek, P. Wajer


The main purpose of the “Pi of the Sky” system is to investigate short timescale astrophysical phenomena (particularly gamma-ray bursts, optical transients and variable stars). Wide field, short exposures and full automation of the system, together with effective algorithms, give good prospects for effective identification of space debris elements. These objects can be a great danger for current and future space missions, and should be continuously monitored and cataloged. Algorithms for identifying optical transients (OT), designed for the “Pi of the Sky” experiment enable moving objects like planes, satellites and space debris elements to be identified. The algorithm verifies each OT candidate against a database of known satellites and is also able to automatically self-identify moving objects not present in this database. The data collected by the prototype in the Las Campanas Observatory enabled us to obtain a large sample of observations of moving objects. Some of these objects were identified as high-orbit geostationary (GEO) satellites, which shows that it is possible to observe even distant satellites with small aperture photo lenses. The analysis of the sample is still going on. The preliminary results and algorithms for automatic identification of moving objects will be described here.


space debris; robotic telescopes; satellite observations; satellite tracking; optical transients

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ISSN 1210-2709 (Print)
ISSN 1805-2363 (Online)
Published by the Czech Technical University in Prague